new year's resolutions

I love making new year's resolutions.  I'm always sad about the previous year ending, but it's nice to have resolutions sort of be a "plan" for how I want the next year to go.  Here's a few of the most important ones:

~ finish reading through my Bible (I didn't quite finish last year) and try and read through it again

~ I want this next year to be one in which I spend more and more time in God's Word, trying to make it a habit for the rest of my life.  It's really hard to do that with school and work and everything else, but I want to try and "fast" from the other things in my life that aren't necessary and take up so much time, and fill that extra time with the Bible.  The day after I decided this I read an interesting part of a book by Amy Carmichael that seemed to fit exactly what I was thinking about.  I wanted to include it here.

*Note on Prayer and Fasting
   This note is to those to whom the idea of “prayer and fasting” is new, and who are rather puzzled about it.
   First, what does it mean?
   It means a determined effort to put first things first, even at the cost of some inconvenience to oneself. It means a setting of the will towards God. It means shutting out as much as possible all interrupting things. For the thing that matters is that one cares enough to have time with God, and to say no to that in oneself which clamors for a good meal and perhaps conversation. It is that which is of value to our Lord. Such a setting of the will Godward is never a vain thing. “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me in vain.”
   But we must be in earnest. “When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

   A few simple Don’ts:

   1. Don’t get into bondage about place, or position of the body. Where did our Lord spend His hours of prayer? We know how crowded and stuffy Eastern houses are; we know that sometimes, at least, He went out into the open air to a hillside; to a garden. Where did Elijah spend the long time of waiting on his God? Again, out in the open air. I have known some who could kneel for hours by a chair. I have known others who could not. David “sat before the Lord.” Some find help in going out of doors and walking up and down; this was Bishop Moule’s way. Some go into their room and shut their door. Do not be in bondage. Let the leaning of your mind lead you; a God-directed mind leans to what helps the spirit most.

   2. Don’t be discouraged if at first you seem to get nowhere. I think there is no command in the whole Bible so difficult to obey and so penetrating in power as the command to be still—“Be still, and know that I am God.” Many have found this so.

Ah, dearest Lord! I cannot pray,
   My fancy is not free;
Unmannerly distractions come,
   And force my thoughts from Thee.

The world that looks so dull all day
   Glows bright on me at prayer,
And plans that ask no thought but then
   Wake up and meet me there.

All nature one full fountain seems
   Of dreamy sight and sound,
Which, when I kneel, breaks up its deeps,
   And makes a deluge round.

My very flesh has restless fits;
   My changeful limbs conspire
With all these phantoms of the mind
   My inner self to tire.

   This is true. Let the tender understanding of your God enfold you. He knows the desire of your heart. Sooner or later He will fulfill it. It is written, “He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him.” “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me in vain.” (Thank God, for using the poor name Jacob there. Do you not often feel very much like the seed of Jacob? I do. “Surely, shall one say, In the lord have I righteousness and strength.” There is none of either in the seed of Jacob.”

   3. Don’t feel it necessary to pray all the time; listen. Solomon asked for a hearing heart. It may be that the Lord wants to search the ground of your heart, not the top layer, but the ground. Give Him time to do this. And read the Words of Life. Let them enter into you.

   4. Don’t forget there is one other person interested in you—extremely interested; he will talk, probably quite vehemently, for there is no truer word than the old couplet,

**Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

As far as I know the only way to silence his talk is to read or say aloud (or recall to mind) counter-words, “It is written, . . . It is written, . . . It is writing”; or to sing, for the devil detests song. “Singing . . . in your heart,” “singing . . . to the Lord”—either or both are too much for him.
   But let the Spirit lead as to what to read. “Let Thy loving Spirit lead me forth into the land of righteousness.”

   5. Don’t give up in despair if no thoughts and no words come, but only distractions and inward confusions. Often it helps to use the words of others, making them one’s own. Psalm, hymn, song—use what helps most.

   6. Don’t worry if you fall asleep. “He giveth unto His beloved in sleep.”

   7. And if the day ends in what seem failure, don’t fret. Tell Him about it. Tell Him you are sorry. Even so, don’t be discouraged. All discouragement is of the devil. It is true as Faber says again:

Had I, dear Lord, no pleasure found
   But in the thought of Thee,
Prayer would have come unsought, and been
   A truer liberty.

Yet Thou art oft most present, Lord,
   In weak distracted prayer;
A sinner out of heart with self
   Most often finds Thee there.

For prayer that humbles sets the soul
   From all illusions free,
And teaches it how utterly,
   Dear Lord, it hangs on Thee.

   Then let your soul hang on Him. “My soul hangeth upon Thee”—not upon my happiness in prayer, but just upon Thee. Tell Him you are sorry, and fall back on the old words: “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee”—unworthy as I am. Let these words comfort your heart: “The Lord . . . lifteth up all those that are down.” “Cast not away . . . your confidence,” there is a “great recompense of reward” waiting for you a little later on.

   But maybe it will be quite different. “Sometimes a light surprises the Christian when he sings,” or waits with his heart set upon access to his God; and he is bathed in wonder that to such dust of the earth such revelations of love can be given. If so it be, to Him be the praise. It is all of Him.
   “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

I want to try and read one good, edifying book every month.

~ Work hard at my job and do my best, even if I don't love it all the time.

~ Honor God through school and get good grades.

~ Nail down exactly what my plans for school are.

~ Write more poetry, fiction, music, etc.

~ Eat fruit regularly.  I make this resolution every year and never follow through with it, but I hope I can actually do it this year. :)

~ Write more actual letters to people.  I used to love doing this, and I think writing a good letter is a dying art.

~ Provide a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for a family in need.

~ Learn how to pray.

~ Adore Him more and more.

~ Memorize more of the Word.  About halfway through this year I'd memorized quite a bit.  I've lost most of it now, though, and I'd like to try and get it back, along with memorizing more.  I've been so encouraged by the memorization group that was formed in my church this year.  We press on together!

~ Learn how to cook more, and try to actually enjoy it (I really just can't stand cooking).

~ Find a way to serve others consistently.

~ Work on my friendships.  I'm generally really terrible at this--I don't keep up on what's going on in people's lives, and then I don't like telling them about what going on in my life, but I know friendship is a gift from God, so I need to work on improving those.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said something about this that encouraged me: "It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian [friends] is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed."

A friend hears the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.
-- Anonymous

~ Give more than most would think is wise. By this I mean not only time and strength, but financially as well.  I read a quote sometime this year that said something like, "As soon as I have any money, I give it away, lest it makes its way into my heart."  Now if only I could find out who said that!

~ Cultivate a gentle, quiet spirit.

~ Get wisdom (Pro. 4:7).  My dad preached a great sermon on this today.

* excerpt taken from Edges of His Ways by Amy Carmichael, pages 247-250
** William Cowper

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